Cinematic Matches: Films That Fit Well Together (Part 2)

About two years ago, I published an article where I discussed films that, in my opinion, would fit well together and make credible double features. Carol’s Double Bill blog series that she published on The Old Hollywood Garden inspired that idea. As a total, I made a list of ten matches, but there could have been many more. That’s why I’m back today with a second part of fifteen matches!

Before going a further, let me precise this: I won’t include sequels, remakes, or films based on the same book (without necessarily being remakes). Otherwise, there would be way too many different options.

Without further ado, here we go!

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DRAMAS

The Man in Grey (Leslie Arliss, 1943) and The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss, 1945)

The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady are certainly among the best-known and simply best Gainsborough Melodramas. Set in the historical past, they revolve around similar themes, such as love, adultery, crime and treason. They also star the same actors, were box-office successes in England and gave stardom to Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc and Stewart Granger. I chose these two as they both feature Margaret Lockwood as a villain. The Man in Grey takes place during the Regency period, while The Wicked Lady takes place during the 17th century. Margaret Lockwood plays a femme fatale in both films. Patricia Roc and Phyllis Calvert are the damsels in distress. James Mason is the one getting into a toxic relationship with Lockwood. Finally, Stewart Granger and Michael Rennie are the romantic heroes. The intriguing aspect about these films is their feminist message, with Margaret Lockwood’s characters living their life as they please. It’s also relevant to see how, in both films, she gradually transforms herself into a villain to reach her means. If she wants something, she’s going to get it no matter what. An entertaining exercise while watching these films is always to determine which character is the worst: Hesther or Barbara Skelton?

Peyton Place (Mark Robson, 1957) and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992)

On Letterboxd, I described Fire Walk With Me as a “Peyton Place on drugs”. Hey, I don’t want to insult the fans, but it’s pretty much what it is. I couldn’t help thinking about Robson’s film as I watched Lynch’s. Both films take place in a small American town where the peace is disturbed. Add to that: teenagers, people with dark secrets, horrible characters and lots of family drama. Of course, the stories are not the same, but you do feel a certain similar mood at times, especially when it’s one of tension and discomfort. Both films also have their qualities and many flaws, almost making them guilty pleasures. I didn’t sense this resemblance in Twin Peaks-the tv series (the first two seasons being much better than the film in my opinion), but of course, the idea of a small city and community is present. Fun fact, before developing the series, both Mark Frost and David Lynch screened Peyton Place in a screening room in Beverly Hills in search of inspiration. They even cast one of Peyton Place‘s actors: Russ Tamblyn! But that might have been just a coincidence.

The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1979) and Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)

Apart from being both directed by a woman, Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and Ergüven’s Mustang feature a group of five teenage sisters. On a side, they live in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and, on the other side, in a small Turkish village, 1000 km north of Istanbul. However, the strongest resemblance between these films resides in the sense of solidarity and friendship between the sisters and the fact that they have to live under strict conservative values revolving particularly around sexuality. They have to tolerate a familiar prison that is built around them little by little. Although both films are excellent, I have a personal preference for Mustang. Interestingly, Jay Weissberg, in his review of Mustang in Variety, also compared these films. He wrote: “It’s impossible to watch this presentation of blossoming female sexuality without thinking of The Virgin Suicides, minus the male-generated perspective Sofia Coppola employed.” And that comparison was very probably made and thought by more than one (well, two, if I include myself).

WAR TIME

Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953), The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963) and King Rat (Bryan Forbes, 1965)

Oh right, that would be a triple feature. And why not? Suppose you take Stalag 17 as a base. Then, it’s easy to compare it to The Great Escape as it also takes place in a German POW camp during World War II. Moreover, in both cases, the prisoners attempt to escape via tunnel digging. Both films also have their share of humour, valuable character actors and their famous leading man: William Holden and Steve McQueen. Remember, they eventually shared the screen in The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin, 1974). Then, King Rat also takes place in a POW camp (a Japanese one, this time). However, the most noticeable comparison resides between its main character, played by George Segal, Corporal King, and the one played by William Holden, Sgt. J.J. Sefton, in Stalag 17. Both men live only for themselves, know how to make their way into the camp and use their privileges to their advantage. The atmosphere of each film, however, is considerably different, giving them their respective uniqueness. And hey, we could even make a quadruple feature by adding the excellent Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) to the lot.

Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1971) and See You Up There (Au Revoir Là-Haut, Albert Dupontel, 2017)

Here are two more films that take place in a war context. This time, it’s the First World War. And, like many films depicting this conflict, it brilliantly shows its horror, its consequences. It’s all mixed with a sort of poetry (think All Quiet On the Western Front (Lewis Milestone, 1930) or Grand Illusion). Overall, they play anti-war roles. Both films feature two young soldiers, one American, one French, that find themselves brutally disfigured on the front. In See You Up There, Édouard Péricourt (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), an artist, expresses himself by creating colourful masks to hide his severe facial injury. He finds company in his soldier friend, Albert Maillard (Albert Dupontel) and a little girl call Louise (Heloïse Balster). Although Péricourt suffers interiorly and physically, Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms), Johnny‘s central character, is even less lucky. Not only he has been disfigured, lost his eyes, nose and mouth, but he is also a quadruple amputee, lying in an army hospital bed. His only way of communicating is by doing Morse code via the movement of his head. At the hospital, a nurse (Diane Varsi) becomes his compassionate companion. However, that’s only a small consolation. Both films allow us to see the soldiers before the accident, mainly with the use of flashbacks. They were young men with a future in front of them but whose lives were brutally altered by the horrors of the war.

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, Guillermo de Toro, 2006) and Black Bread (Pa negre, Agustí Villaronga, 2019)

One is a considerably well-known film (I suspect that if you haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, you have, at least, heard of it). The other one is more obscure but almost as excellent. A post-Spanish Civil War era, seen through the eyes of a child (the main character), serves as a background. Black Bread is, however, not a fantasy film like Pan’s Labyrinth, but it thrills us differently. Both children face a cruel world and do their best to deal with it. Lastly, the most distinctive aspect about Black Bread probably is that it’s a Catalan film while Pan is Hispanic.

DOCUMENTARIES

Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984) and American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)

Those are among the very best concert films I have seen in my life. They both feature David Byrne, the first one as part of Talking Heads and, the second one, in his “solo” career, accompanied by a big group of talented musicians. These are shows with a wonderfully creative mise-en-scène that is, in a way, simple but, in another, complex. In Stop Making Sense, the musicians appear on the stage little by little as the show goes on. In American Utopia, the musicians perform with portable and wireless equipment, allowing them to move around the place like a brass band and create an unforgettable spectacle. In other words, both films complete each other perfectly. One distinction is that there are more interactions between Byrne and the public in Utopia. In Stop Making Sense, he resumes his interactions to an energic “thank you!”. While he was a performer ready to make eccentric moves on stage, he was a pretty shy person overall. But I think he worked on that aspect as the years went by. Finally, let’s not overlook that big names of the industry, Jonathan Demme and Spike Lee, directed these films. Although we often associate Demme with Silence of the Lambs (1991), let’s not forget that he also specialized in concert films. You do feel the quality behind the direction in these two musical documentaries.

GANGSTER FILMS

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) and The Freshman (Andrew Bergman, 1990)

Here we have a Marlon Brando-themed double feature. I’m sure you have all heard of The Godfather, that classic of the New Hollywood era, but fewer people know about The Freshman. However, that film starring Matthew Broderick is a real hidden gem that deserves more attention. If The Godfather is a crime film relating the story of the Corleone mafia family, The Freshman draws on comedy. It’s a one-of-a-kind story where Marlon Brando plays a parody of Vito Corleone, known as Carmine Sabatini. And it’s hilarious. On his side, the main character, Clark, a film student who freshly arrived in New York, makes the acquaintance of Sabatini via his nephew, Victor (Bruno Kirby), after he stole his baggage at the train station. Then, Carmine sends the guy on odd jobs to make some money, and those are far from being ordinary. Aside from all the peripeties that keep you at the edge of your seat when watching the film, what worked perfectly with me about The Freshman is Clark’s film studies teacher, Arthur Fleeber (Paul Benedict). He is simply the perfect parody of a film studies teacher. You know, the guy has a ton of film books he wrote in his office, and they are the ones in the study curriculum. And to make another connection with Coppola’s film, he always shows a clip from The Godfather Part 2 (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) to his students. And, of course, he has learned the lines by heart. I know that this is very caricatural, but, come on, we, film students, all had at least a teacher who was like that or a little. 😉

THRILLERS

Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway, 1948) and While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang, 1956)

These aren’t only two extremely excellent film noirs, but both feature one of my favourite story concepts: media people that try to solve a murder. In Call Northside 777, James Stewart is a journalist that investigates to help a prisoner that might have been falsely accused of murder. The way he improvises himself as a detective is just delectable, as well as his stubbornness and boldness. In While the City Sleeps, employees of the TV and Media Society Kyne Inc. are given the challenge to find a serial killer known as The Lipstick Killer and catch him. Both films are also based on real-life stories and contain an impressive cast.

Suddenly (Lewis Allen, 1954) and The Desperate Hours (William Wyler, 1955)

If you want to see Frank Sinatra play a supervillain in a thrilling and underrated film, Suddenly is the one. In a small town, the president is to come for a visit, and John Baron (Sinatra) has for objective to assassinate him. He takes a middle-class family hostage (and the sheriff (Sterling Hayden) that happens to be there) because they live on a hill. The perfect spot to accomplish his task. While stars Sinatra and Hayden play opposite each other, in The Desperate Hours, it is Fredric March vs Humphrey Bogart. The latter is the bandit that takes the average family hostage, and Fredric March is the father. This time, Bogart, his brother (Dewey Martin) and another guy (Robert Middleton) are escaped convicts. They arrive at the Hillard’s and take them hostage. They are waiting for a package delivered by Glenn Griffin’s girlfriend to help them escape. Those two partly behind-closed-doors films give us chills and make us wonder how the victims and the authorities will deal with the situation.

What a Carve Up! (Pat Jackson, 1961) and Ten Little Indians (George Pollock, 1965)

The fact that Shirley Eaton and Dennis Price play in both films isn’t the only connection we can make between them. Indeed, that comedy and thriller make a singular pair of films depicting a group of people confined to an old mansion and who start dying one by one. They suspect one of them to be the murderer. Well, you might be more familiar with the story based on Agatha Christie’s book and less with Jackson’s film. The main reason why I watched it is because it’s another one of those “unofficial Carry Ons“. It has Carry On actors (Kenneth Connor – my favourite with Kenneth Williams, Sid James, Shirley Eaton and Esma Cannon), and it’s a comedy. Comical and spooky at the same time. The setting is similar to Ten Little Indians and, while the reason that brings the characters together differs, they are still caught in a similar kind of trap (but this time, it’s made with a humoristic background). Of course, the 1965 version of Ten Little Indians isn’t the only existing one. However, Shirley Eaton and Dennis Price’s presence make it more significant for a double feature with What a Carve Up!

21 Hours in Munich (William A. Graham, 1976) and Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)

21 Hours in Munich is another film that remains pretty obscure to this day, probably because it’s a television movie. What drove me to it is that my second all-time favourite actor, William Holden, stars in it. And, I once gave myself the mission to complete his filmography (mission accomplished last April!). Anyway, I didn’t have lots of expectations because the film is pretty much out of the map, but it turned out to be a thrilling surprise. It revolves around the terrorist attack orchestrated by the Palestinian group Black September during the 1972 Munich Olympic games. The group broke into the Olympic Village to hold hostage members of the Israel team in exchange for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners in Isreal. William Holden plays Chief of Police Manfred Schreiber (a fictional character). He tries to negotiate with Black September’s chief, Issa (Franco Nero). Other key members of the cast are Shirley Knight as German chief detective Anneliese Graes (a real-life person), Anthony Quayle as General Zvi Zamir and Richard Basehart as Chancellor Willy Brandt. So, as you can see, despite being a “smaller film”, it contains a branch of pretty notable actors. As for Spielberg’s Munich, the action takes place after the Munich tragedy. Avner Kauffman (Eric Bana) is a Mossad agent based on the real-life Israeli-American security consultant, founder of Interfor International and former Mossad agent Juval Aviv. He has for mission to kill the Black September members responsible for the Munich tragedy. Five other men of different life positions help him in his mission. Generally, the film is entertaining but, being over two hours long, has its flaws. Overall, I would say that, among those two films, 21 Hours in Munich is my favourite, but makes a perfect combination with Munich. I was in the German city in 2019-2020, literally on New Year’s Eve, with friends and my cousin. We went on that hill in the Olympic Park to see the fireworks, pop the sparkling wine and celebrate. It was weird to think that we were in the same area where the tragedy of the Munich Olympic games happened…

WESTERNS

The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952) and The Misfits (John Huston, 1961)

I saw The Misfits first a long time ago and haven’t watched it since, but I remember loving it. My viewing of The Lusty Men is a bit more recent, and I remember thinking of Hutson film when I saw it. There’s not only rodeo in both pictures but also a sort of overall similar vibe. Plus, not only talented filmmakers directed them, but the casts are composed similarly: the male star (Robert Mitchum vs Clark Gable or Montgomery Clift), the female star (Susan Hayward vs Marilyn Monroe) and the excellent supporting actor (Arthur Kennedy vs Eli Wallach). Both are black and white westerns that remind sober but stand out perfectly in their own way, just like another “simple” western like High Noon does. While The Lusty Men is certified 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it is almost the case with The Misfits, with a rating of 97%. 😉

The Professionals (Richard Brooks, 1966) and The Revengers (Wendell Mayes, 1972)

The Professionals and The Revengers are two New Hollywood westerns that I immensely enjoyed (although The Professionals is considered the masterpiece and The Revengers a weaker film). I could have chosen The Revengers and The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) as they both star William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. However, I thought the connection with The Professionals was stronger. If the star figure of The Revengers is William Holden, in The Professionals, it is Burt Lancaster. That was his second collaboration with director/screenwriter Richard Brooks, after Elmer Gantry (1960). However, an impressive all-star cast composed of Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale, Woody Strode, Jack Palance, and Ralph Bellamy accompanies him. Bellamy plays rancher Joe Grant, who gives four men the mission to rescue his wife, Maria (Cardinale). Former Mexican Revolution leader Jesus Raza (Palance) has kidnapped her. In The Revengers, also starring Woody Strode, Ernest Borgnine, Susan Hayword and even Scott Holden (William Holden’s son) in a small role, Holden plays rancher John Benedict. Comanches led by a white man brutally murder his family. Seeking revenge, the man goes to a prison camp in Mexico and hires six criminals to help him in his mission in exchange for a reward. So, as you see, there is a similar pattern between The Professionals and The Revengers. Both films are westerns of adventure with colourful characters. Unfortunately, The Revengers didn’t do well at the box office and was not well-received by critics. But, on my side, it was just another immensely enjoyable surprise. It’s a one-of-a-kind western, not like all the ones that are so similar to each other. Of course, The Professionals is objectively a superior film, but The Revengers deserves its chance too.

BACKSTAGE

Stage Door (Gregory La Cava, 1937) and A Girl Must Live (Carol Reed, 1939)

This American drama and this British Comedy might not automatically be associated with each other.  A Girl Must Live is, indeed, no one of Carol Reed’s best-known films. However, the premisses are pretty much the same: aspiring actresses living together in a big house and looking for work. Of course, different situations occur, and Stage Door has more of a dramatic vibe while A Girl Must Live is there to amuse you. If the stars of Stage Door are Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, in A Girl Must Live, it’s Margaret Lockwood, Lili Palmer and Renee Houston. In both films, wealthy men get the attention of aspiring young female artists. Stage Door is the one that will give you emotions with its heartbreaking situations, while A Girl Must Live is light entertainment. So, they complete each other pretty well. Katharine Hepburn and Margaret Lockwood played both aspiring artists that are newcomers to a boarding house.

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That’s it for now! Don’t hesitate to tell me which one of these double features is your favourite!

See you!